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Hypothermia survivor passes checkup

DULUTH - Janice Goodger's heart is doing just fine.

That was the verdict after Goodger's final medical checkup Wednesday at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, more than a week after the Duluth woman's core body temperature plunged to 60 degrees and her heart stopped beating from hypothermic shock.

"Everything's good," Goodger said Wednesday afternoon.

Goodger's son-in-law, Wade Petrich, is still wondering what it all means.

The situation looked so grim Dec. 27 after the family arrived home and found Goodger lying in a snowbank that Petrich had thoughts about which funeral home the family should contact.

"She really shouldn't go that way," said Petrich, publisher and editor of the Hermantown Star newspaper. "She's been a fighter her whole life, and to have her freeze to death in our driveway ..."

News about Goodger's astounding recovery spread quickly across the national news wires Wednesday after a story appeared in the Duluth News Tribune. Goodger seemed to be mildly enjoying the media buzz surrounding her case; she was, in fact, waiting to hear back from a CBS television outlet in Chicago that wanted to send a reporter to Duluth to hear her heartwarming story.

Goodger, 64, made an "amazing" recovery from the critical situation, St. Luke's emergency physician Dr. Chris Delp said.

He and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mary Boylan were part of a team that warmed Goodger's chilled body and got her heart beating again after she arrived at the hospital.

Goodger, who has rheumatoid arthritis, slipped and fell in the snow outside her daughter's home that afternoon while the family was away. She was unable to rise and unable to call for help, so she spent hours in a slushy snowbank.

Petrich made a frantic 911 call and rushed to get quilts to throw over Goodger while Traci Petrich ran to her mother's side. Emergency responders later said her condition was "not good," Petrich said.

At that point, Goodger's core body temperature had plunged about 20 degrees and she was unconscious, though her heart was still beating. But when the heart muscle gets that cold, Delp said, any movement at all can send a patient into cardiac arrest -- and that's what happened to Goodger.

Gold Cross Ambulance paramedics and St. Luke's emergency staff kept Goodger alive for the next hour using CPR. Hospital staff gradually warmed Goodger's body using heated fluids and a special machine that drained her blood, warmed it and pumped it back into her body. When her body was warmed enough, doctors were able to shock her heart back to life.

Though her outlook seemed bleak, Petrich said, they continued to hope and pray.

Just hours later, Goodger regained consciousness, and she left the hospital on her own two feet within a few days. Aside from a few scrapes and bruises from scooting along the ground that night, she said she feels about the same as always.